Wednesday, November 30, 2016

From My Commonplace: On Conversation

"To 'converse' originally meant to live among or together, or to act together, to foster community, to commune with.  It was a large verb that implied public, cooperative, and deliberate action.  When we converse, we act together toward a common end, and we act upon one another.  Indeed, conversation is a form of activism – a political enterprise in the largest and oldest sense – a way of building and sustaining community."  (p. 89)
"His willingness to listen for correction is always a lesson in humility and grace, and even in courage. Good conversation, if it is to involve mutual teaching and learning, does require courage – not only the courage of one's convictions, but also the courage to admit one's limited range of vision and to allow for change, which always exacts some cost in comfort and the security of being 'right'." (p. 105)
"And prayer itself is a conversation.  To be in conversation with God is, like tithing, a way of returning to Him some part of the gift of words we have received from Him who is the Word.  Like the long intimate conversations of shared life among partners and friends, conversation with God keeps us turning toward, confiding in, trusting, and learning from the very source of life and language. In that intimate conversation we can be sure of receiving whatever direction and words we need for all the others." (p. 110)
~Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
I finished this gem of a book over Thanksgiving break.  So much food for thought – I will be revisiting it I'm sure, even as I continue to mull over the thoughts I recorded in my commonplace.  This was actually recommended to me by a friend from church, and it's not a Charlotte Mason or Classical Education book per se.  But there are a lot of ideas that will probably be of interest to my fellow CM or Classical educators and/or literature lovers.  Worth checking it out, in case you needed another book to add to your already immense stack.  (Ha!) 

On My Nightstand This Week:
Devotional: Luke with the Luke for Everyone Commentary (Wright)
The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven (Maurice)
The Ancient Christian Devotional: Lectionary Cycle A (Crosby and Oden)
 Theological: Mere Christianity (Lewis)
On Education: Norms and Nobility (Hicks)
                                                          Personal Choice Fiction: Hannah Coulter (Berry)
Personal Choice Nonfiction: Slowly savoring the Circe 2017 Magazine while between books. J
With my Hubby: Emma (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: At the Back of the North Wind (MacDonald)
Click Here for more Words

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fall 2016 Co-op Plans

Last year, we were part of a fantastic Charlotte Mason friendly classical co-op and loved every minute of it.  I taught history, literature, writing, and art/music appreciation to the third and fourth grade, which was a wonderful experience.  Michelle fell in love with Shakespeare because of the Shakespeare class she took there.  The only little problem with it….it was clear on the other side of town – a very sprawling town.  And we had to leave in the morning before rush hour ended.  So, we sadly had to decline participating in that group again.  I'm still sad about it.
For this year, our Plan A involved a co-op with a couple of friends from church who were planning to give AmblesideOnline a try this year.  We made a lovely plan for the year, and I was so very excited about where it was heading.   And then, one of those families had to move away. L  I'm still sad about that t00.
So that left just my other friend and I.  Thankfully, our children are very similar ages and get along really well, so we decided to go ahead and have a little co-op together anyway.  We had to pare things down a little bit from the original plan that we had settled on when we thought we were 3, but we're both pretty happy with how things are going so far…so all's well that ends well I guess.
What are we doing, you may ask?
We meet twice a month.  One meeting is at my house and for lack of a better name we are calling this an "enrichment class".    In that class we are covering the following:
We start our meetings with an opportunity for any children who would like to share a poem, Scripture, or piano piece they have learned with the rest of the group.
Picture Study
Charlotte Mason style picture study involves studying a set of 6 paintings from a particular artist slowly, over a period of several months, so we can truly acquaint ourselves with the artist's work and style.  This is done mainly by quietly studying a painting for a few minutes, and then turning it over and narrating all we remember about the painting, talking about what we notice, and what story we think may lie behind the scene or person depicted.  Only after the students have given their insights do I share a few (very few) choice tidbits about the artist or the story behind the painting.  We will be studying Hans Holbein the Younger this fall, and Giotto this spring.
Nature Study
We do an "object lesson" on a seasonally appropriate topic during our time together, and spend some time journaling together.   So far, we have done lessons on seeds, fall leaves, and pumpkins (comparing and contrasting with other squashes and cucumbers).   I didn't really plan it this way, but it's working out well to study a different aspect of plant life for each of our studies, so we will probably continue with object lessons on that topic as we continue on through the year.   My method of conducting these object lessons is pretty simple: we collect samples, lay them all out on the table and observe them, discussing what we see.  I have found using the prompts What do you notice? – What questions do you have? – What does it remind you of? a la John Muir Laws helpful to guide this process.   And then we sketch something of interest in our nature journals.
Composer Study
We are studying Dvorak this fall and will do Medieval Music in the spring (going along with Giotto as our artist.)   Ideally, we play the music of our chosen composer at home frequently to gain familiarity.  During our time together, we do some focused listening on a selection of one of his pieces and discuss a bit what we hear (or what we see – occasionally we watch a YouTube video of an actual performance), and perhaps discuss a bit of what Dvorak's influences were.  (This is really fascinating y'all.  Maybe I'll write another post about some of the fun connections I've come across.)
This the most challenging since we range in ages from 4-11, meaning there is a wide range of skill and ability.  This fall we are doing Paper Sloyd projects (measuring/cutting/folding to make envelopes, boxes, bookmarks, etc), which has gone okay for the most part.  We do have two adults with extra hands, and we are learning how to help the children with perfectionistic tendencies not get too upset when it doesn't work quite right the first time.   I'm not sure if we will continue paper sloyd in the spring, or choose a different handicraft. Handicrafts are neither of our forte…
We also have a recess break at the small playground in our subdivision, and our friends usually pack a lunch and stay and eat with us before they head home so the kids get some playtime together in too.
On our other monthly meeting, we plan a park day or other field trip of some kind.  Thus far, we've just had a couple of park days, but I think we will need to be a little more creative during the winter when it is likely to be too cold to want to spend all morning out in the park. J  But our crew has been pretty happy with this arrangement so far.
While there are times I find myself missing the more academic, discussion-based focus of the group we were part of last year, we are finding this a good fit for us this year.  Because we only meet twice a month, we have some wiggle room in our schedule on our off-weeks, which has given us time to pursue other field-trip opportunities on our own or set up outings with other friends.  These were things I rarely felt like I could give us permission to do last year when we were part of a weekly, more academic co-op (especially given the distance factor and how much that weekly cross-town trip took from all of us energy wise.)  Our kids love spending time together, and it's been good for us Mamas to be able to chat outside of church time too (especially since I've been unable to participate in our women's Bible study this fall).  So, all's well that ends well….

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From My Commonplace: On Loving Words

"We gather these gifts of language as we go along – lines from poems, verses from Scripture, quips, turns of phrase, or simply words that delight us.  We use them in moments of need.  We share them with friend, and we reach for them in our own dark nights.  They bring us into loving relationship with the large, loose 'communion of saints' who have written and spoken truths that go to the heart and the gut and linger in memory.  So our task as stewards of the word begins and ends in love.  Loving language means cherishing it for its beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal.  And it means using words as instruments of love."  p.23
~Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
The thing that immediately came to mind when I read this quote was commonplacing – the act of gathering the 'gifts of language' – recording the words, thoughts, and ideas that strike us as we read.   This was a habit that Charlotte Mason encouraged on her older students and trainee teachers, and is one that I have appropriated to myself.  I have been keeping a commonplace for over two years now, and just began my fourth journal.  It is simple really – take those quotes and passages that really strike me in my reading and jot them down in a book.  The overflow of that collection is what appears in this space.
James KA Smith asserts in his book You Are What You Love  that we are all lovers – we will love something it's part of our nature as human beingsOur habits shape our loves for good or for ill.  The habit of commonplacing forces us to slow down – to consider – to savor words.  It teaches us to love words and to use them well.
Sometimes, the simplest things are the most powerful.

On My Nightstand This Week:
Devotional: Luke with the Luke for Everyone Commentary (NT Wright)
The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven (Maurice)
The Daily Office Lectionary Readings and Prayers from The Trinity Mission
 Theological: Mere Christianity (Lewis)
On Education: Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators (Woodward)
                                                          Personal Choice Fiction: The Game (King)
Personal Choice Nonfiction: Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies (McEntyre)
With my Hubby: Emma (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: At the Back of the North Wind (MacDonald)
Click Here for more Words

Monday, November 14, 2016

Morning Basket Journals

So, back at the beginning of the school year, I posted our Morning Basket Plans.  Since it's been a little while since I posted that, I thought I'd give a bit of an update on how that's going before continuing that series on our school plans. J
For the most part, not much has changed.   We are still loving our morning walk (and, now that things are cooler, enjoying a cup of hot cocoa or tea over our morning basket when we return on days when time allows), and our rotation of readings, songs, and drill is going well.   The one thing that I noticed when we had Term 2 exams (6 weeks in to our new school year – our AO Years and our School Years are kind of a mess – we roll with it) was that retention of material that we covered as a group during our Morning Basket was much less than the subjects they do individually with me.   I don't know if that's because it's the first thing we do each morning, so it gets crowded out by their individual subjects by the end of the day, or if it's because they are more likely to tune out or rely on others to narrate for them, or some of both.  So, in an effort to remedy that I introduced the Morning Basket Journal:
The idea behind these is quite simple, really.  At the end of our Morning Basket time each morning we take about 5 minutes to record something we read, sang, or talked about that particularly struck us – something we want to remember.  The form this can take is up to each individual.  It can be a sketch, or a brief written narration, or a commonplace-type entry of a quote from a reading or song.
For whatever it's worth, this isn't a type of notebook that Charlotte Mason herself specifically advocated.  (Of course, Morning Time didn't originate with her either J.)  That said, I do believe that it is keeping with her principles – it is a form of narration, really.   It begins with a blank page, and it is up to each individual to decide what they want to record – what they took from that morning's 'feast'.   The idea was partly inspired by some of the principles of Charlotte Mason style notebooking from Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page and partly from Jenny Rallens' video on The Liturgical Classroom.
The six year old sometimes has a little trouble getting started, but overall, this has been quite a successful venture so far.  They enjoy taking those few minutes to record and share something that struck them.  It remains to be seen if their exam results will be different at the end of Term 3 in comparison with Term 2…but for now, I am satisfied that there is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty seeping down into their souls, which is the ultimately the goal, exam results aside.  I've been keeping a journal with them, and have been struck by how much *I* have gained from taking these few minutes to reflect.  Morning Time is good for Mama's soul too, y'all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

From My Commonplace: "O Goodness Infinite!"

(Originally posted July 20, 2016.  I had a new quote queued up to post today, but this one seemed a fitting reminder today.)

"Yet him God the Most High vouchsafes
To call by vision, from his father's house,
His kindred, and false gods, into a land
Which He will show him, And from him will raise
A mighty nation, and upon him shower
His benediction, so that in his seed
All nations shall be blest. He straight obeys,
Not knowing to what land, yet firm believes.
'I see him, but thou canst not, with what faith
He leaves his gods, his friends, and native soil…
Not wandering poor, but trusting all his wealth
With God, who called him, in a land unknown…
This ponder, that all nations of the earth
Shall in his seed be blessed. By the seed
Is meant they great Deliverer, who shall bruise
The serpent's head…"
(Lines 120-129, 133-134, 147-150)
…who shall quell
The adversary serpent, and bring back,
Through the world's wilderness, long-wandered Man
Safe to eternal paradise of rest…
… of His reign shall be no end."
(Lines 310-314, 330)
"Thy punishment
He shall endure, by coming in the flesh
To a reproachful life, and cursed death;
Proclaiming life to all who shall be believe
In His redemption; and that His obedience,
Imputed, becomes theirs by faith: His merits
To save them, not their own, though legal, works."
(Lines 404-410)
"O Goodness infinite, Goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness."
(Lines 469-473)
~John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XII
A few choice lines from the final book of Paradise Lost.   I had set Paradise Lost aside during a busy season this past spring, and figured it might be a couple of years before I would pick it up again.  So much to read, so little time, right?  But my summer reading took a bit of a detour when I picked up a paperback copy of Surprised by Oxford (I had previously read it off my Kindle) and re-read it.  Her descriptions of studying seventeenth century literature at Oxford inspired me to pick Paradise Lost back up...and I finished it!  I am so very glad I did.  The story Milton tells in Paradise Lost is a heartbreaking one.  Satan rebels against God in heaven…he falls.  God creates a beautifully perfect world – He speaks order into the chaos, and Satan infiltrates it and tempts Adam and Eve into sin as well.  They are cursed, and thrown out of God's beautiful paradise.  All is lost.
Or so we think.
But all is not lost.  There is Another One coming.  One who will triumph.   One who did triumph at the cross, and One who will come again in ultimate victory.
This is a crazy world we live in.  There are times when the Unthinkable happens.  There are times when it seems that Chaos overwhelms.  There are times when it seems All is Lost.
Christ Has Died.  Christ Is Risen.  Christ Will Come Again.   We declare those words every week in church as part of the Anglican liturgy.
I don't know about you, but that's a truth I need to hold on to.
"O Goodness infinite, Goodness immense!"

In My Reading Stack This Week:
Devotional: Luke with the Luke for Everyone Commentary (NT Wright)
The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven (FD Maurice)
The Daily Office Lectionary Readings and Prayers from The Trinity Mission
 Theological: Mere Christianity (Lewis)
On Education: Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators (Woodward)
Personal Choice Fiction: The Game (King)
Personal Choice Nonfiction: Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies (McEntyre)
With my Hubby: Emma (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: At the Back of the North Wind (MacDonald)
Click Here for more Words

Sunday, November 6, 2016

What We've Been Up To...

Oh, yeah…that's right.  I have a blog.  Maybe I should post every so often.  Ahem.
In all seriousness, I hope that all of you lovely readers have been enjoying a lovely fall, as we have been.   We are 2+ months back into our school year and other activities and are settling into a fairly smooth an predictable rhythm.  Unfortunately, that rhythm doesn't leave me with a lot of margin in my days…and I'm committed to writing in the margins and not at the expense of my local real-life….so forgive my silence here.  There are so many things I want to share, though…writing is my preferred mode of thinking through and processing things…and today is a rare delightfully free Saturday, so here it goes. J
A few highlights of our fall thus far:
Field Trip to the "Wee Houses" exhibit at our local botanical gardens with friends from our old co-op
Lots of park days with our friends from church (with whom we have a low-key co-op this year…)
Andrew Jackson State Park
Also a broken arm… L
And a birthday!  (11!  I'm still not sure how that happened…)
On the school front we are making steady progress on AmblesideOnline Years 1, 2, and 4.  The children are enjoying swimming lessons, learning how to play piano (the older two),  participating in our local homeschool choir program (just the girls), and weekly library visits now that we broke down and paid for a membership to the larger library system in a neighboring county.   We've also had some lovely outings, as you can see above.  Overall, I'm pleased with how our school year is going.
I was able to attend a local one-day Circe conference, which was refreshing and encouraging.  And as it was the week after my birthday, I actually won a give-away of the Treasure These Things audio collection.  So, lots of good listening....and also lots of good reading.  While I'm currently not participating in any book discussions, I have read some good books this fall.  I am on a bit of a CS Lewis kick - enjoyed his conversion memoir Surprised By Joy  - followed that with Abigail Santamaria's biography of his wife, Joy Davidman (interesting, and in some ways not particularly likeable person!) - and now Mere Christianity.   I also recently finished an Elizabeth Goudge novel - The Dean's Watch  and introduced my children to one of my childhood-very-favorites Anne of Green Gables. Most recently, I've jumped in with Brandy to read about Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators.  Fascinating stuff, y'all....and part of the reason why I am going to attempt to squeeze some blogging in.  So many thoughts swirling in my mind...
So...that's what's up here!  What have you been doing this fall?